Ellen and William Craft

Last Stop to Freedom
Ellen and William Craft
Oil on canvas - 24 X 36

I'm honored to have this painting used in the book:
Abolitionists: What We Need is Action by author Torrey Maloof
It appears on page 5.

Available at Amazon.com by clicking here


Ellen and William Craft stand on the platform at the Baltimore train station. The train is ready to leave, bound for Philadelphia. It's December 24, 1848. Leaving Georgia was risky. The last few days had been filled with many "dangers, toils and snares" and now the final test. They have been told that they must go back into the station to see the train clerk. "Would he let them pass into Pennsylvania, a free-state?" was their haunting thought. With the light from the train at their back, the cold damp night and fear fell away to stir their conviction. This was the train that would carry them to freedom. William would later write, "... God who had brought us safely out of a land of bondage" would surely open the way.

Born in 1826, Ellen Craft was the daughter of an African woman and her Georgian slave owner. Ellen was separated from her mother as a young woman and never saw her mother again. She would never forget the mournful cry from her mother as they took Elllen away. Ellen was given to her all-white cousin as a wedding gift. Ellen's father's wife was sick of seeing Ellen with her white skin, looking like her husband. Later Ellen married a cabinet-maker's assistant, William Craft. They both dreamed of freedom and talked about how they might escape one day but Ellen was too afraid of the consequences they'd face if they were caught --- a fate worse than death. Ellen wanted children but she always said that as long as she was a slave, she would never have them for fear that they would one day be taken away.

One day, Ellen and William had a brilliant idea... Since Ellen could pass as white, she could dress as a man in a suit and top hat. She'd put a bandage around her head and face to cover her feminine facial skin. However, there was still one problem to solve. Ellen couldn't read or write. They knew that as a white man, she would be expected to sign visitor's books at hotels, as well as boarding passes as they journeyed north. So they decided that she would put her right hand in a bandage and her right arm in a sling so she'd be excused from signing. Ellen and William would escape to freedom by traveling as a sickly white male slave owner with his slave. They would tell others along the way that they were traveling north to seek better medical attention than was available in the south.

Ellen and William made their way out of slavery and with the help of abolitionists, made it to Boston. In 1850, the U.S. Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Act, signed into law by President Fillmore which made it legal for "slave hunters" to capture fugitive slaves and return them to their "rightful" owners. Ellen and William escaped again to England to realize their freedom.

In 1860 William Craft documented their story in Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom.

A book for young readers: 5,000 Miles to Freedom: Ellen and William Craft's Flight from Slavery



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